The “green bank” condemned for abusive loans

For the first time in France, a bank has just been sentenced for lending money to individuals. The case law lists a dozen cases of “abusive support”, but only in the context of a business bankruptcy. Never before has a bank been condemned to repay money … It’s done since October 3: the case took place before the court of Saintes (Charente-Maritime), and it is the agricultural credit that was pinched.

In April 1985, in other words under Methuselah, but legal proceedings are slow, and a farmer must think for a long time before filing a complaint against Credit Agricole, the Regional Bank of Charente-Maritime grants a new loan of 684,000 francs to five pig farmers. One of them, Bernard Rocheteau, finds himself with annual repayments of 73,000 francs, while his operation generates only 113,000 francs of margin. The court states that “this sum must, moreover, cover the subsistence of the farmer and his family”.

Another farmer, Maurice Moreau, has to pay 68,000 francs a year to the “green bank”, while his income is only 38,000 francs. “Credit Agricole advised me to borrow from another bank to be able to repay,” says today the breeder.

Malpractice, judged the court of Saintes

“Nevertheless, by granting these loans, Crédit Agricole committed a fault since it aggravated the debt of the operators whose activity was structurally deficit.” Hence “direct harm to the farmers concerned”.

But why on earth did the bank lend money with no hope of return? We are entering into a particularly perverse tactic. The five farmers in question had a debt with their cooperative, Gropo 17. The chief co-operator then asked them to take out a loan to clear the slate, so as to “prevent Gropo 17 from paying 18% interest on the overdraft. of account “. Charitable, Credit Agricole offers a consolidation loan find this at a rate of 11% only. Obviously, breeders say banco.

“The maneuver benefited the cooperative,” said a magistrate

It is unclear why Credit Agricole loaned the money, but both are linked. “Clarification: the new loan is mortgaged on ranchers’ farms, while a simple overdraft is pledged on Nothing at all. The “green bank” is therefore safe to recover an asset in exchange. In fact, most homes are in the process of being sold at auction, in favor of Crédit Agricole.

Condemned for having “made a serious error of appreciation”, the bank could appeal, on the grounds that a bank overdraft greater than three months must be “contractualized”, ie was therefore legally obliged to turn the overdraft into a loan (1 ). And the bank is certain to have made the right choice: “We have lent to twenty breeders. Because five went bankrupt, did we have to abandon the others? ”

Breeders could also appeal because they only obtained 30,000 to 60,000 francs in compensation per person, whereas they claimed between 500,000 and one million francs. “We are pleased that the court recognizes the fault of Credit Agricole, notes their lawyer, Mr. Blazy. Yet my clients remain overwhelmed with debt. I dread overflowing with violence if we attack their properties. ”

“All my goods are seized, but also those of my parents,” said Maurice Moreau. On retirement since October 1st, he still has to repay 85,000 francs a year for twelve years, with his pension of 3,000 francs a month.

Next month, other courts will try similar cases. Here again, the “green bank” is suspected of having voluntarily over-indebted ranchers. The phenomenon is old as intensive agriculture; the novelty is that small farmer does not hesitate to rebel against the Credit Agricole, in other words against (larger) farmers who trust the chairs of directors. The peasant lobby, quick to send the children to the front to better defend the interests of the big, is all cracked.

In the case of Saintes, a local news item heated up the spirits a little more. The Crédit Agricole regional bank lent 16 million francs for a hierarchy to start raising racehorses. His stable went bad, the bank had to make a cross on the 16 million. But the hierarchy did not become homeless.